Portfolio > The Botanist's Pipe

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In the past, aging lesbian lives were rarely celebrated, documented or explored. Too often those lives have been buried in silences, unseen in art, lost in stories untold.

I have often wondered: What might these stories look like? Taking the anonymous pressed plants from my Niagara Palimpsest project as inspiration, I decided to fabricate the story of the botanist, who pressed these plants, and her partner, Lily.

I used abandoned visual legacies, photos and albums, found on the Internet and in flea markets, to create their composite identities. I set their story in iconic Niagara Falls, a site so well documented that it is difficult to see accurately, and a parallel to Helen and Lily’s “hidden” love and community. While my botanist’s identity and kin are fabricated, an element of historical truth informs most every object in the series and narrative. In The Botanist’s Pipe, the lie of its albums, objects and diaries illuminates truths of actively hidden queer lives. This speculative history, then, acts as part wish fulfillment and part corrective.

My work also honours my own chosen family. Embedded throughout The Botanist’s Pipe are scraps of their handwriting, names and objects — residue of where past and present, imagined and real, join.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to the members of my many rich communities who have been with me on my own personal journey, especially to my partner, Jill Tinmouth, and to the generous people who have helped me with this show.

• Amanda Milroy
• April Hickox
• Colleen & Grace Huebert
• David Tinmouth
• Dimensions Framing
• Janet Kimber
• Jennifer Long
• Jill Tinmouth
• Karen Chapelle
• Margaret DeRosia
• Mary Tinmouth
• Maureen Davis
• Meera Margaret Singh
• Tracey Dey
• Tulin Gundogdu